U.S. Rep. John Shadegg and campaign challenger Bob Lord are ramping up the rhetoric and dipping deeper into their coffers, launching five new television ads between them this month with plans for more.
Politics in the typically quiet Congressional District 3 heated Wednesday, as the race heads into the final month, with the Republican Shadegg firing back at charges from his Democratic opponent that his votes in Congress have betrayed veterans.
Three local veterans, including two who served in Iraq, appeared at a Phoenix American Legion hall Wednesday to denounce Lord's commercials and praise Shadegg's commitment to soldiers and their families.
"I know of no one who has worked harder on behalf of the troops than Congressman John Shadegg," said Lorenzo Valenzuela, who served in Iraq and met Shadegg during a tour there.
In the TV ad that just finished a two-week run, Lord blasts Shadegg for opposing health care and bonuses for troops while approving pay raises for himself.
"We have a moral obligation," Lord says in the ad. "This business of voting against the troops is a betrayal."
But the veterans, who appear in Shadegg's new ads, said money to give each soldier a $1,500 bonus would have come from a $1 billion fund for reconstruction efforts in Iraq.
Rick Erickson, a Phoenix attorney and Iraq veteran, said the reconstruction effort is critical to the safety of American soldiers and the stabilization of Iraq. Lord's commercial, he said, "shows a great misunderstanding of the counterinsurgency effort."
Shadegg voted against a bill to improve health benefits for veterans, they said, because it included a provision for troop withdrawal - a political maneuver to draw a Bush veto and provide campaign fodder.
"It's nothing more than a partisan political trick," said Phoenix attorney and Vietnam veteran Terry Woods.
But Lord's campaign released a 14-page document listing 36 separate votes on military issues, from opposing extending health care benefits for reservists and National Guard members to budgets that had funding for veterans tucked inside.
In his new ad, Lord accuses Shadegg of "putting party before principle" by marching in lockstep with the Bush administration. He also takes another shot at Shadegg's vote on veterans' health care.
Lord, a tax attorney, has been pounding Shadegg on a variety of issues with almost daily press releases. Yet another release Tuesday criticized the congressman's vote against the so-called "all of the above" comprehensive energy plan.
Shadegg, seeking his eighth term representing the north East Valley district, responded directly to Lord for the first time Wednesday with the news conference and TV ads.
Lord's campaign has attracted national attention and funding in the first real challenge Shadegg has seen since he was elected in 1994.
Shadegg and Lord have agreed to two local TV appearances together in the next few weeks.
The pair will appear together Oct.5 on "Sunday Square-Off" on KPNX-TV (Channel 12) and are invited to the Oct. 13 edition of "Horizon" on KAET-TV (Channel 8).